Friday Five: Award-winning religion story, Down syndrome advocate, free cars at church and more

I'm going to bury the lede and do a bit of foreshadowing before we get to the big, happy news in this week's Friday Five.

Previously, GetReligion's own Julia Duin has won two Wilbur Awards, the national honors given by the Religion Communicators Council. The annual prizes celebrate excellence by individuals in secular media in communicating religious issues, values and themes.

Duin's first Wilbur Award came in 2002 and recognized a Washington Times series she co-wrote with Larry Witham on the future of America’s clergy.

In 2015, Duin earned her second Wilbur Award for her "From Rebel to Reverend" piece about Nadia Bolz-Weber for More Magazine.

The 2018 Wilbur Award winners were announced this week. Might Duin claim a third? Stay tuned as we dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Los Angeles-based freelance writer Heather Adams had an extremely interesting piece this week on an anti-abortion activist who has Down syndrome.

Adams wrote the story for Religion News Service (full disclosure: I also do occasional writing for RNS, including a spot news piece this week on creationist Ken Ham speaking at a public university in Oklahoma).

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Editor Terry Mattingly's post headlined "Kudos to Washington Post for accidentally revealing diverse forms of Oscar hate/apathy?" occupies the No. 1 spot this week.

A close second: "Wheaton College gets big religious liberty win, which inspires a case of news-media crickets," also by tmatt.

Come on, boss, save some readers for the rest of us!

3. Guilt folder fodder (and more): A few years ago, I did a GetReligion post on "Half-naked dancers and public prayers in Oklahoma City." That post concerned the prayers before Oklahoma City Thunder games.

This week, a different kind of public prayers in my home state — those involving the Oklahoma Legislature — made headlines, including an informative piece by The Associated Press' Sean Murphy.

The controversy (which The Oklahoman's religion editor, Carla Hinton, covered here and here) involves complaints that non-Christians are being denied the opportunity to lead prayers in the state House. That same newspaper's conservative-leaning editorial page declared that Republicans who run the state "do themselves no favors when they manage to mishandle something as simple as who gets to say the daily prayer, as is happening in the state House of Representatives."

4. Shameless plug: OK, enough with that buried lede. It's time to offer a hearty congratulations to Julia Duin for winning her third Wilbur Award, this one for her Washington Post Magazine story on Paula White.

You may recall that I praised my colleague's story last November, and Duin offered some behind-the-scenes insights on the reporting process in her own GetReligion post.

Here is how the Post described Duin's story in the contest entry:

When we learned that controversial, stiletto-wearing, thrice-married, Trump-campaign supporting televangelist Paula White was jetting to Washington frequently to continue to serve as spiritual adviser to the president and to play a key role in connecting him with other conservative faith leaders, we knew we wanted to find out more. The notoriously press-shy White granted religion reporter Julia Duin unusual access during a trip to Washington, and Duin not only followed her through meetings at the Old Executive Office Building, a pop concert and a religious gathering, she got White and her family members and supporters to open up. The result was a story that was newsworthy in many ways. It illuminated what White is doing at the White House, why she supports Trump despite his flaws, what evangelicals are hoping to accomplish through the “unprecedent opportunity to have our voice and say heard” in the Oval Office, and what her relationship with Trump is like -- including the fact that he doesn’t challenge her claim that she led him to Christ. But, like any good profile, it revealed intriguing personal details about White that few were aware of: her son is a registered Democrat and studied feminist theory, her rock-star husband influenced her style, she turned to the prosperity gospel as a way to make money, her relationship with Trump has caused parishioners to leave her church, she goes on tour with her husband, she pays her own way with the White House. The story was one of our most read for the year, garnered more than 1,100 comments and was named one of the Top 10 Religion Stories of 2017 by The Media Project.

Way to go, Julia!

5. Final thought: Go to church.

Get a free car.

I'm in! (Actually, I'm on the fence as far as this concept ... but it's an approach we've mentioned before.)

In any case, check out Washington Post religion writer Julie Zauzmer's feature on a Maryland church that gave away five free cars on Sunday.

Happy Friday, everybody! Enjoy the weekend!


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